Things to Do in Advance
Allow time to view the video and review this section of the leader’s guide
before meeting with your class. Determine what you will cover in the available
class time. Plan for any of the Optional Activities you would like to use and
how you will integrate the work with the class. Acquaint yourself with any
terms that are unfamiliar (see glossary). Consult with members of your clergy
when appropriate. Finally, duplicate any materials you plan to distribute to
PURPOSE OF THIS SESSION (5 minutes)
Prepare your group to watch the video. (Read or paraphrase)
This episode examines sacred memory as expressed in the form of ritual. A
ritual is a ceremonial action performed in religious observance, such as a reenactment
of a sacred story or idea. Think about your experiences in your faith tradition.
What is your earliest memory associated with your religious belief? What is
your most “memorable” memory? What is your most “sacred” memory? Were rituals
a part of these memories?
Direct responses towards memories of the faith tradition,
house of worship, of activities within the faith tradition. Note that participants’
earliest memories may be of a different faith tradition.
All religions have sacred memories that carry the faith from generation to
generation. These memories can be conveyed in rituals, which transform the
believers’ view of life and the world. Many of these memories are observed
as holy days or seasons. Most patterns of sacred memory are cyclical in nature,
occurring over the course of a year and repeated every year.
These designated times provide balance and a measure of predictability both
to religious life and to its intersection with secular life. Rituals call to
mind a particular event or revelation important to the religion. These recurring
themes insure that future generations will be exposed to the most important
events, beliefs, and memories of the religion.
Sacred memory looks back into history, views
the present in light of what has happened and how it has come to be understood
theologically, and looks to the future to bring it into focus in hope and faith.
SHOW EPISODE IV
Allow time for members of the group to discuss what they
have seen before proceeding with the rest of the discussion.
SACRED MEMORY IN RITUAL (10 minutes)
Many sacred memories as preserved in ritual correspond to a faith tradition’s
most holy days. Ritual is an effective way in which people can pass their most
important sacred memories down from one generation of believers to the next.
These rituals often depict important events in the development of a religion.
Name several holy days of your faith tradition. Consider the following points
for one or more of your holy days:
·Why are these days considered
·How are they commemorated?
·Are they primarily celebrations, times for contemplation, solemn occasions,
or a combination of these and other traits?
· Describe the rituals that surround
the observance of these holy days?
· What do rituals ask you to remember
about your religious history?
· What functions do they serve
in your congregation and in your personal life?
In the video you are given the opportunity to see rituals from a number of
faith traditions. At Joy of All Who Sorrow Orthodox Church, you will see Orthodox
Christian women and children ritually decorating the bier in preparation for
· Does your congregation ritually
decorate any parts of your building for special days?
· Does your worship service have
a different “look” at various points on the religious calendar? Why?
Note the changing of the colors of garments worn by members of the clergy.
For some congregations that observe Easter, dark garments such as purple are
worn until Easter when it is believed that Jesus rose from the dead. At that
point garments and altar decoration are changed for lighter colors, often white.
At St. Anthony Catholic Church you will see the faithful being marked with
the sign of the cross on Ash Wednesday, and you will see paste and rice being
placed on the foreheads of Hindu believers at the India Community Center on
the holy day of Rama-puja.
· Are there any similar rituals
that your faith tradition practices?
In the Jewish tradition a Seder dinner takes place in homes during Passover
in observance of the Jewish liberation from Egypt. Over dinner, the story of
Exodus is recounted. In this video, you will see the participation of the family
in marking this sacred memory. The meal itself is ritualized. On the plate
are foods that symbolize aspects of Passover: unleavened bread since the Israelites
did not have time to wait for yeast bread to rise; an egg symbolizing new life;
a lamb bone for the blood of the lamb that was daubed on door posts as a signal
to the angel of death to “pass over” their home; horseradish to stand for the
bitter memory of slavery; and salt water as a symbol of the tears of the people.
·Does your faith tradition celebrate
any sacred memories in a similar fashion?
Many Christians have various ways of commemorating
the Last Supper Jesus had with his disciples. While it seems a symbolic reenactment,
believers consider it to be a transformation to the actual event of the past.
Different denominations practice this ritual in various ways, with different
frequency, and call it by different names such as the Eucharist, Holy Communion
or Lord’s Supper.
CHANGES IN RITUALS AND RELIGIOUS CALENDARS (10 minutes)
It may be helpful to discuss the history of ritual in your faith tradition
with a member of your clergy before addressing this issue.
·How has the observance of ritual
changed over time in your faith tradition? In the last few years? the last
century? the last millennium?
For example, many religions in medieval times observed a holy day every
·When was the last holy day added
to your religion’s calendar, and why?
· Is it likely that more holy
days may be added to your faith tradition in the future?
Why or why not?
·What kinds of events or historical
happenings might make adding a holy day more likely?
·Are there any holy days that
could be added to the religious calendar of your faith?
IMPACT OF HOLY DAYS ON SECULAR LIFE (5 minutes)
·What holy days have become secular
·How have schools and employers
responded to the holidays of faith traditions that have not been “officially”
·Should more holy days be recognized
in the school and work settings? How could this be accomplished?
HOLY DAYS OF "OTHER FAITH" TRADITIONS (5 minutes)
·Why is it important to be aware of the religious practice of other religious
·What is the purpose of talking about the holy days of other faiths and
LIGHT IN RITUAL OBSERVANCE (5 minutes)
Many religions use “light” as a basic component
of ritualized observances. If this is true of your faith tradition:
·List observances in which light
· What does light represent in
·In what memories or rituals
is light most commonly used?
You probably participate in several rituals of a sacred nature outside of your
congregational setting. Take time to review your actions each day in a variety
of settings. What takes place before you begin eating a meal with the family?
What do you do in preparation for bed or going to work or school?
Note: Some viewers may notice the absence of
prayer shawls or tallits during the Jewish observance of Yom Kippur. The synagogue
in which holy day observances could be videotaped was a reformed congregation
where such garments are not worn.
In the video, the narrator refers twice to the
birth of Rama Puja. Rama is the name for a Hindu deity, an incarnation of Vishnu.
Puja is an observance or form of Hindu worship.
Session IV—Optional Activities
Select a group of volunteers to explore holy days and their various meanings.
Prepare a list of different local religions. Assign a person to each different
religion. That person is to go to a library and or contact someone from that
faith and prepare a list of that religion’s holy days and their origin. The
group will then report their findings after the video. Lead a discussion of
the nature and importance of holy days in perpetuating faith and in protecting
the faith’s directives.
Create a set of large cards or posters on which special days of celebration
in your faith tradition are depicted. After the video, have members of your
class arrange the cards in order to illustrate the order of your faith’s calendar.